Tag Archives: baby

An Evolution

7 Aug

I always knew I’d breastfeed. But when I set out to nurse, I think I saw breastfeeding as a static, uniform thing — you did it or you didn’t, and for those who did, it was just all the same. As a new parent, it was both enlightening and reassuring to discover that’s not true. It is, in fact, extremely nuanced, as individual as the ones doing it. But I also discovered that as soon as you find your footing, things change. Like your baby, breastfeeding and the breastfeeding relationship is a living, ever-changing creature.

So in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m sharing with you the evolution of my breastfeeding experience… two and half years of the ups, downs, tears, joys, and mundane of nourishing my little one (and myself) in the process.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pre-birth – I suppose this started years ago when I watched my step mother nurse twins for 18 months. I’d never seen a baby breastfeed before and this seemed revolutionary to me at the time (at 15). Closer to time for z-baby’s birth, though, I took a breastfeeding class at work and attended some lunchtime discussions at work for nursing moms (led by a lactation consultant). A few days before I gave birth I started getting nervous and watched every video I could find from Dr. Jack Newman. I watched healthy newborn latches over and over and over…

Birth – Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I wanted to nurse right away but z-baby was in a transition nursery for over 6 hours. When I did get him, we started right away and he latched — but not a great one. I had already asked for a lactation consultant and we saw them three times before we left the hospital. Z-baby was a sleeper… he wanted to eat, but he wanted to sleep even more. So my most vivid memory of those days was stripping him down each and every time he needed to eat (so he didn’t feel too cozy) and gently nudging him awake throughout every feed. Z-baby’s papi took this very seriously, like his personal mission those first few days.

Month 1 – My milk came in quickly and plentiful and z-baby was a great eater. I loved nursing, but it was soooooo painful. But not in the way I could have imagined. I had a bit of Carpal Tunnel during the pregnancy, and it kicked into overdrive those few weeks following birth. My hands would freeze up like hooks and I was terrified I’d drop the baby. And my hands didn’t just go numb, they ached and pain shot up through to my elbows. I remember crying through several of those feedings from the pain. My mom or husband would have to either support the baby or my breast or both. It sucked (no pun intended). I couldn’t sit down to nurse without water and a towel because there was so much milk it seemed to get everywhere!
*Nursing equipment was very important: Boppy upstairs, Brest Friend downstairs, multiple towels, nipple cream, pads for the bra, nursing bra.

Months 2-3 – When the painful claw hands went away, nursing became a breeze. I loved it still, and enjoyed every minute of it. Then I had to have my gallbladder taken out and we happily fell into co-sleeping, which made the night-time nursing even better. Z-baby loved nursing and was still in that pre-wiggler phase where he’d pretty much stay put through a whole feeding and was serious about his nursing… no playing for this guy… yet!
*Equipment: We dropped the nipple cream around this time and started trying the pump and bottles. 

Nursing z-baby, 5 weeks

Months 4-9 – I went back to work after 3 months and it was hell. H-E-L-L. Z-baby refused all bottles and reversed cycled. My first day back I had an off-site meeting and tried to pump in the car, only to realize I had no batteries or charger. I got so engorged but survived. I was at a leading public health agency in the country and they had lactation rooms and pumps which were great, but it was still a challenge to find the time during the day to do it and an open time slot in the rooms. I luckily telecommuted several days a weeks and had someone watching the baby in the house, so I could just nurse those days. But on days when I wasn’t home, z-baby waited for me all day and then we nursed all night. I welcomed the nursing, but he would be so hungry that he’d overeat and puke everywhere and I could never keep up with the laundry. We introduced some solids in here but he could care less. Most of this is a blur for me because the postpartum depression set in during this time, though I wasn’t fully aware of it. But I know I worried all day about z-baby not eating and raced home to be with him and only then was I ever at ease. And in those early days of still undiagnosed postpartum depression, it was the nursing that kept me going… alive even.
*Equipment: Pump, pump, pump. And pump some more. Sometime during this time we also stopped using the nursing pillows.

Months 10-14 – I finally started getting treatment for the postpartum depression, and while this was still a very difficult time, it did start to get a little better. Breastfeeding was still the light at the end of the tunnel each and every day. Looking down and seeing z-baby and seeing him relish the time as much as I did left me speechless. Or maybe it was from the biting, I can’t remember. No longer just a wiggler on the couch, he’s a roller during nursing, too. He nurses upside down and sideways, bouncing and swaying. I never knew my nipples were so flexible… I still overproduced and donated gallons (and gallons…) of it to a friend. But I’m finally not gushing every time I go to nurse.
*Equipment: I think I still used nursing pads when at work or separated from z-baby, and the pump, of course.

Months 14-24 – I stopped working, put away the pump, and started staying at home with z-baby full time. Life is goooooooooooooood. Nursing becomes something I do often throughout the day, but no longer think about. Z-baby became vocal about his nursing during this time and asked for it frequently. Nursing in public became both easier and more difficult. Easier because he could just sit in front of me and I could angle away from people… harder because he never stayed in one position and insisted my shirt be ALL the way up to give him total access. I struggled with the decision to wean or not so that I can get pregnant again, but it just never felt right. Z-baby went through lots of ups and downs… times when he needed to nurse a lot (usually growth and developmental spurts and teething) and periods where he didn’t nurse as much. Biting still an off and on issue, and the nipple fiddling started (playing with one while eating off the other). Momma became a serve yourself buffet during this time — z-baby would pull up my shirt and insist on his “deeta” whenever he wanted it.
*Equipment: A chair. That’s it. No pads, towels, creams, pillows, nothing. Oh, and a nursing bra. But I had to be careful somedays because he sees the act of sitting down as an open invitation.

Months 24-30 – Here we are, nursing at 2 1/2 years. Nursing is still an acrobatic act, day and night. We’ve pared it down to going down and waking up from naps and bedtime. He’s starting to respect my wishes some — needing to wait or stop during the night, for example. But he manages which side he wants and the exact position he wants it in. I also have to nurse cars and trains, and he’s even tried to push it up so I can have some, too (such a helper!). He even managed to get chocolate milk out of me one day (that’s a post for another day)!!! He had his first sleepover with grandma (our first night apart!), which was his first night ever that he didn’t nurse. And just very recently did I hit the nursing wall. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m ready to wean. I know I’ll miss it, and I can’t imagine motherhood without it (at first at least), but I’m ready. Is he? I don’t think so, and we’re working on potty training so I won’t do anything right away… but we’ll see what the future holds for us.
*Equipment: Nada. Except for the darn bra! There are times when he needs a quick comfort session of about 3 seconds and I don’t even sit anymore… just bend over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two and half years of breastfeeding. No cracked nipples, plugged ducts, or mastisis. A little bit of yeast once. Overproduction and numb hands. Gallons of milk in my freezer. Lugging the pump to work and z-baby on a week-long business trip. Surgery and anesthesia. Postpartum depression and medication. Nursing pads, pillows, and towels. Reverse cycling and cosleeping. Nursing in bed, on the couch, at the table, typing, writing, on the phone, in the car, in public, in therapy, on planes, in meetings, standing up, sitting down, bending over. Two and half years. And I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it for anything in the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The gravitational pull of balls

27 Jul

Z-baby has officially been ball crazy since before he could even walk. Soon after sitting up, he was throwing them. Later we’d hold him up by his hands and he’d stand in place, wobbling to and fro. But if you rolled a ball to him, he’d kick it nearly without fail. Even his first word was “ball.”

Los pies con America

Fútbol in the genes...

Aside from the occasional and shameless photo opp (ahem, see above), we didn’t push him towards balls… he just gravitated. He’d have nothing to do with dolls or stuffed animals, could care less about TV, and while he tolerates books most of the time, only things with wheels have recently come close to sharing the stage with balls.

And then a month or so ago, he watched a soccer game with sig-o. Now he asks to watch it all. the. time. “¿Ver fútbol?” (watch soccer?) is something I hear regularly throughout the day now. So as a treat, I’ve started letting him watch the sports channel for short bits during the day. It’s a channel that literally has some sports on all day without annoying commentary shows. Just sports. And they’re alternative sports, I guess you could say — no baseball, basketball, or football. And some don’t even use balls…

So the first evening we watched track and field. After watching a race and some high jumping for a few minutes, he stood up and declared, “Bebé unning!” and took off and completed about 7 laps through the house. His finale was to run full force towards the couch and jump up onto it, landing on his back. When pole vaulting came on TV I leapt on the remote control and found something else for us to do.

Then it was ping pong. It’s one thing to make your child laugh by tickling them or making faces. It’s entirely another to hear them laugh independently at things all on their own. And z-baby thought the slow-motion replays in ping pong were hi-larious. He laughed and laughed and I couldn’t help but joining in.

Swimming was next. It was a replay of all of Michael Phelps’ Olympic races in Beijing. Z-baby was mesmerized. He kept shouting, “Big agua!” and swinging his arms around. When we next went to the pool, he went under and popped up repeatedly all on his own in the kiddie pool, taking big breaths each time. And in the big pool he swam with his arms in addition to his normal kicking.

And then there were the gymnastics. We recently put z-baby in a gymnastics class, so he recognized it right away. He studied them walking on the balance beam and practiced his forward rolls in front of the TV. He jumped (lots of knee bending and then hops on one leg) and threw his arms up in the air as if he’d just completed a triple back handspring and sang “Ta-da!”

It took z-baby time to warm up to his gymnastics class. The first day he just stood there, looking around, as if he was trying to figure out where all the balls were and exactly what they were supposed to do since there weren’t any. But now he loves his gymnastics class, and while he’s the lone boy and shorter than all the girls in there, his balance and coordination are spot on. He likes his class so much that we can’t talk about it at home because he runs and puts his shoes on and tries to get out the front door. When we were getting ready for class the other morning he was jumping on the bed and doing forward rolls. I asked him if he could do his backwards roll and he looked at me for a minute, then ran to the headboard on our bed and sat backwards on my pillow and rolled back, trying to fling his legs over his head. When that didn’t work, he tried two pillows.

Gymnastics class

I’m sometimes amazed at how much he gravitates towards all things typically “boy.”

But then there are moments when I’m reassured that he’s much more than that. Like when he asks me to nurse his cars. And like the other day when he came into my bedroom carrying a blanket up by his head. I asked him what he was doing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen him carry a blanket) and he replied, “Bebé carga, choo choo night night,” which is his bilingual Toddler-ese for, “I’m carrying and rocking my trains to sleep.” And then he proceeded to bounce them, to pace the floor with them, and to shhhhhhsh them, as if he’d studied the Happiest Baby on the Block.

Amongst the chaos of all the jumping, running, and kicking, it’s a side of him I don’t get to see very often. But when I do, I drop everything and just watch, soaking in every drop.

Going with your gut

1 May

For those of you visiting from the Multicultural Awareness Blog Carnival, welcome to The Vaca Loca! I’m so glad you could stop by and hope you enjoy your stay!

I’m originally from Kentucky, and besides Speedy Gonzalez and The Three Amigos, I didn’t grow up hearing much Spanish spoken. I started taking Spanish in high school, and it was there that the universe started opening little windows for me and laying out paths that would ultimately lead me to where I am today — married to a man from Mexico and trying to raise a bilingual baby.

I consider myself fluent in Spanish, but not fully bilingual. I think in both languages, dream in both languages, feel in both languages… but English is still by far easier for me. This became especially apparent after having my baby. I spoke to him in both languages, but when it came time to comfort him, coo at his cuteness, and play baby games with him, English dominated. Complicating matters was the fact that I had postpartum depression, which utterly exhausted me and left me with an abysmal emptiness. And it’s when I’m tired and weak that my Spanish suffers the most.

My husband and I had talked early on about how we were going to go about teaching both languages to the baby. The one-parent-one-language method felt forced to us. And since we now live in the US we knew the baby would be getting an overwhelming amount of English no matter what. So we planned on just using Spanish in the home and with Spanish-speaking friends and family. The effect that my postpartum depression had on this plan only exasperated me more and fueled my feelings of inadequacy when it came to raising a bilingual baby. But we pressed on, adamant that he learn Spanish. We quit worrying about the “right” method, and just did what felt right in our guts.

My little z-baby is now two years old and his language skills are really starting to blossom. My husband speaks to him almost only in Spanish, and I speak as much Spanish to him as I possibly can. Some days this means no English. Others it means about half and half. And z-baby? He understands both beautifully. And he speaks some of both, though he has yet to string sentences together in either. He picks and chooses the words he uses. For some things he only uses Spanish — the alphabet, numbers, colors. For other things, it’s only English — parts of the body, apple, move, bed. And for yet other things, it’s what suits his fancy in the moment — ball/pelota, agua/water, kitty/gato, comer/eat, basura/trash. He’s let loose a perfectly conjugated verb or two in Spanish (cayó and ¡ya voy!) and chastises the dog in English (Bad gur!). And I’ve even noticed recently that he asks my husband and me to pick him up in Spanish, but asks my mother in English.

My heart explodes as such displays of bilingual communication. And it’s those moments that make all the hard work worth it, and make it easier to put up with the daily aches and pains of what it’s really like to try and teach our baby Spanish and English. So what does the daily grind feel like anyway? Well, a little something like this….

  • It means translating for grandparents and abuelos
  • It means walking through stores and jabbering away in Spanish while you get stares from everyone (both Latinos and non-Latinos)
  • It means actively seeking out books and activities in Spanish (this is the only gift we ever ask for from Mexico now)
  • It means learning the words for things you may never have had to use before
  • It means getting your Spanish corrected more frequently
  • It means learning songs in Spanish and making up new ones
  • It means always being aware of the balance between how much you use each language
  • It means not beating yourself up when you slip into English
  • It means second-guessing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g you say — “Did I say that right? Is that masculine or feminine? Is my accent off?”
  • It means loosening up, letting go, being persistent, and having patience

But most of all, it means trusting yourself and going with what feels natural in your gut — and isn’t that the ultimate lesson in parenting, no matter what language you do it in?

******

A big Thank You to Bicultural Mom for hosting the carnival!

You’ve come a long way, baby

30 Apr

Today marks a major milestone for me — I’m sharing my 100th post.

100 posts.

100 times that I’ve bared my pain, vented my woes, shared my secrets, bragged about z-baby, opened my soul… and hoped to nourish yours in the process.

100 times that I’ve wondered what to divulge and how much to share.

100 times that I’ve hit “publish” and felt a little of the weight lifted.

I browsed through my old posts last night, and as I read through them, it was like reading some other woman’s diary. I couldn’t even remember writing some of them. I laughed at some (at least I can make myself laugh, heh?) and flinched from the pain of others. And I was thankful for this woman. Thankful that 1 1/2 years ago, this woman decided, on a whim, to start a secret blog and document her struggle with postpartum depression. I remember that woman… lying on her bedroom floor in the dark, afraid to move a muscle for fear that it would wake up her baby and she’d never get him back to sleep… wondering what other women with this illness actually thought and felt… wondering if she would ever be able to move forward… wondering how to fight the dark thoughts that kept pushing their way into her head.

I can only hope that something I’ve written in these 100 posts has resonated with someone battling postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and/or postpartum OCD, and helped them to know that they’re not alone and that things can get better.

This is a small, humble blog, and I want to say thank you to anyone who has ever read it and for those who have ever left a comment.

And for those of you who are new to The Vaca Loca, I still write a little about postpartum depression, but it has evolved into thoughts and stories about my real life, rather than just my illness. So for nostalgia’s sake, and as a celebration of how far I’ve come in 100 posts, I thought I’d share some of my earlier posts with you all…

  1. How did I get here? — the path to my PPD/PPA/PPOCD
  2. A minute inside my head — the painful record that played in my head 24/7
  3. What tipped the scales — the evolution of thoughts that made me get help
  4. Down with rubber duckies — my meltdown over a rubber duckie
  5. The spa episode — the one where I very nearly killed sig-o before I got help
  6. I do good guilt — really… but what mom doesn’t?
  7. Birth Story — reflections on how z-baby came into this world
  8. Taking care of mom — what happened after the birth story
  9. It’s a love-hate thing — watching sig-o parent through the lens of PPD
  10. And yet — still in the midst of PPD, but know it’s getting better

No cable? ¡No importa!

27 Apr

I recently read a post over at Bicultural Mom that has a nice list of bilingual/Spanish-language TV shows for kids. This got me to thinking… As far as tools and resources go to help z-baby learn Spanish, this is an area where we haven’t explored much.

Z-baby only recently started watching some videos. And as I mentioned in a recent post, we don’t watch much TV and don’t have cable. But when he does watch TV, I’d like to limit his screen time to as much Spanish-language programming as possible. So while Disney, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids do offer clips and some full episodes of their shows online (when they’re not crashing my mac), where else can you turn if you don’t have cable? Below is a brief list of sites we have found so far.

Netflix — Ok, so you do have to pay for this, but I thought I would include it, too. Some of the items below are available on DVD only, but a few are available instantly (always nice with an impatient toddler!).

  • Cantarima DVDs — I can’t say enough about these DVDs. Cantos y Rimas and Canciones de Cuna are in Spanish and English, whereas Números y Figuras is in Spanish only. These are the first videos z-baby would watch and he L-O-V-E-S them. And while it’s hard to get the songs out of your head, they also help mom and dad learn some songs in Spanish, too.
  • Various videos of Handy Manny, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Maya and Miguel, Sesame Street, and Plaza Sésamo (2 are forthcoming).
  • Famosos Dibujos Animados En Español (others forthcoming) — These are basically old school cartoons (Woody Woodpecker, Porky the Pig, etc…) in Spanish. We haven’t watched these yet, but I’m keeping them on my radar for the future.
  • Cri Cri: Las Número 1 — So the songs are not actually performed by Francisco Gabilondo Soler… but they are a favorite of sig-o and he wanted z-baby to grow up with them, too.

¡Sorpresa! — Promoted as a Spanish-language cable channel for Hispanic youth and families, their website also offers shows for free. For preschoolers, there are four shows with anywhere from 4 to 28 full episodes each: Bali, Wumblers, Cubeez, and Tiny Planets.

Mis Cositas — A great resource in general, but they also have a You Tube channel with videos. I don’t know about yours, but my kid loves just watching other kids do mundane things, and he likes watching the videos starring Niko — ¡tan chulo!

You Tube —  I have a love-hate relationship with You Tube when it comes to z-baby watching anything on it. Love it because you can find virtually anything on it. Hate it because you have to be vigilant about what you click and what might pop up next on the screen if you’re not paying attention. But always good in a pinch and when looking for hard to find things (like when sig-o remembers shows and songs from his childhood that we can’t find anywhere else online. Topo Gigio anyone? Ah… nostalgia 🙂 ).

Your local public library — Yep. Even where we live, which is a far cry from a multicultural mecca, the library carries many books, a few DVD’s, and some audio recordings in Spanish. And you can always request something you’d like them to acquire. Never hurts to ask!

Where else do you turn for on-screen resources? I’d love to hear what you’ve found!

Unicorn

21 Apr

Z-baby is an early riser. Not too early, but since I’m not a morning person, anything feels early. He wakes up, nurses a bit, and then hops out of bed and plays with toys in our room. Unless I forget to shut the door at night. Then he has free reign of the house while I struggle to heave myself out of bed. We do have a baby gate up in the hallway to reign him in… but that only lasted a few months before he figured out how to work it.

One morning this week he hopped out of bed and promptly headed out of the room. Sig-o and I lay in bed talking and then we heard the crash. From the sound of it, I can only surmise that he was standing up in his big, wooden Mexican truck while cooking at his play kitchen when he fell out and hit the entertainment center? I jumped out of bed and he met me at the door crying. He asked me for a bebo (beso = kiss) for his boo-boo and stopped crying and ran out of the room to play again. I tried not to freak too much and shrugged it off.

By the time we sat down to breakfast, he had a big, honkin’ coco (bump) on his head… and he was so proud of it. It looked like he was sprouting a unicorn horn. Here are some really, really bad pics of the little sprout.

Shake it off

17 Apr

Late this afternoon we decided to shake off a tough day and go kick around a soccer ball. While we’ve lived in this town for almost a year now, we’re still figuring some things out, and where to find pick-up games of fútbol is one of them. We had recently found a campo by accident not too far from our house so we decided to give it a try. No one was there today, unfortunately, but we still had lots of fun.

Sig-o and z-baby were dressed for a serious day of fút, sporting the uniform of el Tri (la Selección Mexicana/Mexico’s national team).

sig-o "tri"

Z-baby "tri"

They took special care putting on the new tacos (soccer cleats… a $2 consignment sale find!).

tacos de fut

They ran.

jugando fut

They kicked.

kicking

They got stuck in the net.

stuck in the net

And got lost on the field.

perdido en el campo

Z-baby even stole my camera while I was trying to nail sig-o with the ball practicing my shot and took his very first self portrait.

z-baby self portrait
And then they called it a day.